Know Women, Know Sustainable Consumers

Know Women, Know Sustainable Consumers

There is more than meets the eye in what we know about how women buy (poetry not intended).  And, fortunately for us, that means we’ve got a lot of information at the ready to help better serve the sustainably minded consumer.

My argument has always been that marketing to women was not a “whole new, complicated thing” compared to marketing done before we acknowledged women’s particular ways of buying.  Instead, marketing to women encompasses an understanding toward fine tuning the smartest marketing to the toughest customer.  Today, marketing to women continues to be a foundation for the smartest marketing approach, but this time the toughest customer is not a woman, as such, but a person buying through a sustainability lens (who may more likely be a woman, but there are plenty of men in this group too).

A recent article by Dr. Bob Deutsch, a cognitive anthropologist, caught my eye with its sustainability implications along those lines.  His research, very simply, points out that men consummate and women cycle. Do you see what I see?

Well – if not, how about this:

The male is in the now.

The female is oriented to the relationship between things, and to stability over the long term.

This helps confirm my suspicions that understanding how women think and purchase is the key to better serving the consumer striving to buy and live in a more sustainable matter.  The definition of sustainability reads exactly the way Deutsch describes women in his article:  women/sustainability cycle, women/sustainability involve the conceptual and relationship between things, as well as stability over the long term.

He goes on to point out a few principles for making your brand more appealing to women that would also make a brand more appealing to anyone buying through the sustainability lens.  A few of those are (Deutsch’s point in purple italic):

Authenticity, not just immediate appearance. Women – and the sustainable consumer – see above, below and around the facts presented by your brand.  They are more aware of the history and reputation of a brand/corporation than we give them credit for.

Connectedness, not just individuals. Women – and the sustainable consumer – can’t ignore the connections between what they use as cleaning products and their family’s health; or their own household energy use and how much energy will be there for future generations; or how the choices they make can affect the lives of their neighbors – and so on.  

Quality of life, not just accumulation. Women- and the sustainable consumer – recognize that their choices must be made in “the context of a social matrix as Deutsch puts it. The sustainably-minded consumer is more about “development” of a richer life than “growth” toward a “bigger” life.

It is safe to say that women brought me to sustainability (and that will be the topic of my next quarterly newsletter).  For me, understanding women has never been about making marketing “all about women.” Instead, knowing how women buy guides a whole new interpretation of general consumer behavior.  Humans all have some balance of feminine and masculine traits – just to varying degrees. As well, humans all have some degree of sustainable thinking/awareness.  It’s a marketer’s job to understand where their core consumers lie on that continuum.

We live in a world where the biggest news and breaking stories come from the polar extremes, or examples of just how different one thing is from the other.  Instead, start to look at your business or your consumer market as being at a point on a continuum. Products obviously got sold before marketers focused on women, but when we tightened our focus and really worked on understanding the marketplace – we zeroed in on women.  Marketing has gotten a lot better because of it.

The next wise business step, around which corporate practices and marketing will(should) refine even more, is the pursuit of sustainability and serving consumers who demand that. Business innovation and marketing strategies will get that much better for it.

If you know women as well as you should by now, you have a huge head start in knowing the sustainable consumer.  That consumer is much more focused on the cycle of life, experience over achievement, and finding inner peace rather than the biggest piece.


Andrea writes exclusively for her blog, LearnedonWomen, and appears regularly on Vermont Public Radio.